GAITHERSBURG, Md. - Montgomery County police have arrested a 54-year-old karate instructor for inappropriately touching a teenage female student.
Frank Yul Pugarita is charged with one count of sex abuse of a minor and one count of fourth-degree sex offense. He is being held without bond.
According to detectives, the alleged crimes took place at the Pugarita Karate studio located in the 8900 block of North Westland Drive in Gaithersburg. Police say Pugarita has owned the business for about 10 years.
According to arrest documents, the 15-year-old student told police that back in May, Pugarita rubbed her genitals, buttocks and thighs during a stretching exercise, and that he later told her to do splits with her legs over his face and tried to pull her closer to him. The girl also told police Pugarita asked if he could kiss her.
Police say an investigation into Pugarita began on June 29. On Oct. 3, detectives were able to obtain an arrest warrant, and they took him into custody on Monday.
On Tuesday, karate students, parents and employees gathered at the studio to support Pugarita. They comforted each other and even made homemade signs.
"Words don't even describe what is happening," said 15-year-old Jennifer Santos. "It doesn't feel real right now. It feels like this is all a nightmare."
She said she has known Pugarita since she was 4 years old. Student Claudia Vasquez also said she has known Pugarita for years and that he has been like a father to her.
"He would never do something like this," Vasquez said. "I have known him for 12 years. I spend five hours a day here every day."
Students say they have heard rumors about the allegations for several weeks, but were not sure if the alleged victim had gone to police.
Pugarita's wife declined to speak to media, but addressed the crowd who came to support her husband at a meeting inside the studio.
Police say they believe there may be additional victims.
Investigators said in a statement: "Parents with children who attended the karate studio are being asked to talk to their kids about their contact with Pugarita. Parents who believe their child was victimized are being asked to call police at 240-773-5400."